Fair Trade Crafts, Foods Aid Artisans In Third World
Published: November 22, 2007
ATLANTA— What would Jesus buy?
As the gift-giving Christmas season approaches, shoppers can connect the Catholic Church’s teaching about human dignity with their holiday to-buy list.
“As consumers, we have choices to make. This is a choice that benefits the world. This is a choice that really makes a difference,” said Carman Graciaa, religion coordinator at Immaculate Heart of Mary School and an ambassador for the fair trade movement that promotes the work of low-income farmers and artisans who create the crafts.
For sale at fair trade markets around the archdiocese and online from Catholic Relief Services are unique products, from hand-carved stone decorations and Divine Chocolate to African nativity scenes and coffee.
“The important and amazing thing of fair trade is someone’s hand touched this,” said Sara Otto, an intern with the archdiocesan Parish & Social Justice Ministries staff who is working on raising the profile of fairly traded products.
Shopping With A Conscience Is The Focus
So what is fair trade? It’s about “providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide,” according to the Web site of Fair Trade Federation, a certification organization for the fair trade movement.
Fair trade is a program that supports more than 1 million farmers in nearly 60 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The movement is in its infancy and supporters liken it to organically grown products, a small niche market which recently skyrocketed in popularity. Fair trade products that have jumped in popularity are fresh fruit, wine and sugar, according to Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, an umbrella group for fair trade organizations. Coffee continues to be the biggest fairly traded product.
For every craft sale between 15 to 30 percent goes to the artisan, according to the Fair Trade Federation. If a gift costs $25, up to $7.50 goes to the producer. The artisan or farmer is able to keep more of the money because the program cut out the middlemen when selling the product. And many of the producers are members of cooperatives that pool money to improve the local communities with social services projects.
In 2006, almost $2 million of fair trade products were sold through CRS, up from $1.3 million the year before.
Catholics and others can learn how their purchase power improves impoverished communities through the CRS Web site.
“If we say we are Christians and we believe in Jesus Christ and we believe in the values that he taught us … our actions should reflect that,” said Simone Blanchard, a senior program manager at Catholic Relief Services based in Atlanta.
Catholic Relief Services took up the fair trade program more than 10 years ago launching its crafts project, Work of Human Hands. Since then, the nonprofit has expanded to offer coffee raised by coffee cooperatives in Central America and Africa and chocolate from a cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Another component is the CRS Fair Trade Fund, which awards grants to artisans and farmers overseas.
For more information, visit www.crsfairtrade.org or call (800) 685-7572.